Jeter's community service awarded

Updated: October 29, 2009, 10:14 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Jeter
Jeter

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter again found himself the focus of unwanted attention in a season full of honors.

This time, though, with a little self-deprecating humor, he didn't need prompting to cherish the moment.

The New York Yankees captain was the recipient of the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to a major league player who combines community service with excellence on the field.

Jeter was presented the award by commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, Roberto's widow, before the Yankees played the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night.

"Obviously we're very excited we're in the World Series, but it's nice to get an opportunity to focus on something that really has to do with something more than baseball. It has to do with community work and giving back to the community," Jeter said. "People in our position, they should take advantage of it. They should try to give back as much as possible."

Jeter was the Rookie of the Year in 1996, the season he started his Turn 2 Foundation, which supports programs that help young people turn away from drugs and alcohol and choose a healthier lifestyle. He has also won a World Series MVP, All-Star Game MVP, is a 10-time All-Star and is playing for his fifth World Series title. This year he surged ahead of Lou Gehrig as the all-time hits leader for the Yankees, and needed prompting from his parents to enjoy the distinction.

Sharlee Jeter, his sister and vice president of the foundation, thinks this award might be the honor that means the most to him.

"It's probably just as important to him, if not more important than his baseball honors and it's something he wants to do," she said. "And to be awarded to just do what you think is right is probably more rewarding."

Derek Jeter joins a list of Roberto Clemente Award winners that includes 13 Hall of Famers, including Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith. St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols won it last year. Ron Guidry and Don Baylor also won the award with the Yankees.

"I know I'm getting an award for this but there are a lot of players that give a lot back to their community," Jeter said.

Clemente was a Hall of Fame right fielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while trying to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits.

With Jeter's mother, father and sister sitting in the front row, Selig praised Jeter's commitment on and off the field.

"You're a wonderful role model not only for the youth of America but also for our players. You have been the face of baseball for many years, and you're truly deserving of this award," Selig said. "I don't want to embarrass Derek, but as a player like Derek Jeter, it makes me very proud to be the commissioner of baseball."

Jeter, who loathes being in the spotlight off the field and downplays his accomplishments on it, always in deference to his team, kidded with Selig.

"I've got the commissioner fooled, too, huh?" Jeter said to laughter.

Then he placed the success of his foundation on his family, which helps run the organization. Turn 2 has given more than $10 million in grants to programs in New York City, West Michigan and Tampa, Fla., according to the foundation's Web site.

"They deserve a lot of credit for not only helping me start this foundation but pretty much running it on a day-to-day basis," Jeter said. "I want to thank them for coming out here. My sister now is running it. I know she wanted me to mention that."

The 35-year-old Jeter, a career .317 hitter, hit .334 with 18 homers, 66 RBIs and 30 steals to lead the Yankees back to the World Series for the first time in six years.

The three-time Gold Glove winner had one of his best seasons in the field, too, silencing many of his detractors, who have said he has lost significant range at the position.

Vera Clemente was named Major League Baseball's Goodwill Ambassador by Selig for her work with children and youngsters in Puerto Rico and other countries.

"This opportunity will be good for me, you know, to keep working hard with this new era to provide more advice for the children to be better, and when they have the ability, for example, in baseball or any other sport, for them to be a star," Clemente said. "Derek Jeter is a good example of that."

Also on Thursday, baseball commissioner Bud Selig offered his opinion on the call to retire the late Clemente's No. 21, saying that honor should remain for Jackie Robinson only.

"I think we've honored Roberto in many ways. And the way we should -- he deserves to be honored in every way...But the retirement of numbers...," Selig told ESPNdeportes.com's Alfredo R. Berrios. "You know, I get a lot of letters, people are mad [because] we've never retired Babe Ruth's number.

"Really, Jackie Robinson, I think, transcended baseball," Selig said, referring to the setting aside of Robinson's No. 42 in 1997. "I'll always believe that. He transcended baseball -- it was something that was so important to this country in a myriad of ways, so you wanna do that very rarely ... very rarely. But we honor him [Roberto] every way we can".

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.